What's wrong with a little networking?

The one constant with the federal government’s overall social-networking policy is: There doesn’t seem to be one.

Access to sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook might be prohibited or permitted, depending on the agency.

The discomfort concerning social networking includes fears that employees will disclose sensitive or proprietary information, worries about productivity, and concern over social networks as a potential source of malware infection.

The U.S. government doesn’t have a clear policy regarding federal employees’ use of social networks, said David Gorodetski, co-founder and chief operations officer at Sage Communications.

Agencies can choose to establish internally hosted social-networking sites, which reduces security concerns. For example, in September, the intelligence community launched A-Space, a collaborative environment that resides on the classified Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.

Such internal sites are behind government firewalls and thus are much more secure, Gorodetski said.

As for commercial sites, government agencies will need to make decisions on not only broadly based entities such as LinkedIn and Facebook but also on government-focused sites.

Govloop.com, for one, bills itself as the “premier social network connecting the government community.”

Gorodetski said another social-networking site, named Discover, is in beta testing and will be restricted to registrants from the .mil and .gov domains.

David Graziano, who leads Cisco Systems’ federal security practice, said he believes agencies will fall into two camps when it comes to Web 2.0 developments.

One camp will be agencies that shut down and discourage collaboration and perpetuate an environment of closed networks, he said. The other side will make the leap to Web 2.0.

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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